The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has stripped two Kansas Highway Patrol officers of immunity for their detention of a man with Colorado plates whom they believed to be suspicious because Colorado has legal recreational marijuana — thus any car from Colorado was a potential marijuana smuggling vehicle.
In rendering its opinion, the court did not mince words, making it clear that it viewed the patrolmen's theory as total bullshit.
As we have said previously, "that the defendant [was] traveling from a drug source city—or . . . a drug source state—does little to add to the overall calculus of suspicion." Such a factor is "so broad as to be indicative of almost nothing." Moreover, our fellow circuits have concluded the state of residence of a detained motorist is an "extremely weak factor, at best" in the reasonable suspicion calculus because "interstate motorists have a better than equal chance of traveling from a source state to a demand state."
…Currently, twenty-five states permit marijuana use for medical purposes, with Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C. permitting some recreational use under state law. Thus, the Officer's reasoning would justify the search and seizure of the citizens of more than half of the states in our country. It is wholly improper to assume that an individual is more likely to be engaged in criminal conduct because of his state of residence, and thus any fact that would inculpate every resident of a state cannot support reasonable suspicion. Accordingly, it is time to abandon the pretense that state citizenship is a permissible basis upon which to justify the detention and search of out-of-state motorists, and time to stop the practice of detention of motorists for nothing more than an out-of-state license plate.
PETER L. VASQUEZ,
Plaintiff – Appellant,
DAX K. LEWIS; RICHARD JIMERSON,
Defendants – Appellees. [US Court of Appeals/Tenth Circuit]